As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow


Lemon Dill Carrots–LIVE!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of going on Good Day Austin to showcase a Happy Kitchen recipe. I’m not trying to be pompous with this statement, but I have been on TV so many times though that it’s quite fun and I don’t get nervous at all–it really is like just having a conversation with a friend. Anyway, what host Keri Bellacosa said off the segment was great. She asked, “What am I tasting? The carrots?…OMG, these are the best, sweetest carrots I’ve ever had!” To which I replied, “Fresh carrots from the farmers’ market will do that!”

Click here to see the show segment (for whatever reason, the video embed code is not showing up).

Lemon Dill Carrots


Put an Egg on It

By now, you might have seen Portlandia’s “Put a Bird on It” video. It’s pretty ridiculous. And sadly true. When I was in Brooklyn last week at a small gift store some earrings caught my eye. What kind of earrings? Bird earrings. And this video immediately popped into my head. I didn’t buy them.

Anyway, as I was making lunch today, I started thinking to myself, maybe there needs to be an egg motif for quick, easy meals–Put and Egg On it. Most Americans typically think of eggs as breakfast items, not lunch or dinner. But with the plethora of eggs I have (thank you again, chickens!), I make a lot of meals by…Putting an Egg on It. And lots of other cultures do too. I remember when I went to Ecuador for the first time and a typical meal there was rice, potatoes and a fried egg on top. And it was soooo tasty! And did you know that a popular pizza topping in Italy is a whole egg?  And think about Pad Thai–more egg. So, anyway, go ahead, put an egg on it!

Leftover rice, sauteed kale from garden w/Braggs and two of my hens eggs

Leftover rice, sauteed kale from garden w/Braggs and two eggs from my hens

Steamed cauliflower tossed with sauteed onions and garlic, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and an egg

NYC Food Photos and Musings

So, my recap of my NYC trip was made more complicated that I originally thought because of all the photos I wanted to include in the post. I finally decided the easiest would be to upload the photos to Flickr and then have a Flickr link on my blog page for future occasions such as this. So, the if you scroll down and over to the right, you’ll see several photos of food in the right-hand narrow column. Click on any of the photos and you should be directed to the NYC February 2012 album. Or click here. There are quick descriptions under each photo; for a more narrated version of NYC, continue reading below!

Our inaugural meal in NYC was at Lupa, which is part of the Mario Batali group. It was a small, intimate, yet very lively restaurant. The food was fantastic but honestly, the thing I liked the most and had NEVER seen anywhere else was a food glossary!! We’ve all been at restaurants in which we don’t know all of the dishes. Rather than play 20 questions with the waitstaff, Lupa’s got it down by providing this invaluable resource for its patrons. I wish all restaurants had a glossary. Ingenious!


Dinner at The Spotted Pig was probably the best meal I had in in NYC. It was absolutely scrumptious. I had roasted carrots with thyme, champ (Northern Irish dish made with CREAMY mashed potatoes and green onions), seared mackerel with sweet potatoes and house cured pancetta, “devils on horseback” and “roll mops” (one is pickled herring, the other is bacon-wrapped dates–I don’t recall which is which). I was so busy eating that I didn’t manage to take any photos of the food!


Murrays cheese is the most famous cheese store in NYC. It has been around since 1940. It even has caves below the store to keep certain cheeses! Cheese classes? Stinky cheese? Cream cheese? Anything cheese? Check!


One day we made a hotel picnic lunch with goodies from Zabars, which is a grocery store on the Upper West Side. It’s been in existence for over 70 years! Lunch included caper berries, cheese, crackers, kinishes, white beans, broccoli rabe, Jewish sweet treat (don’t recall the name) and citrus fruit. Interesting side note: I may now understand the idea of crappy tasting produce in very urban areas. I had several pieces of citrus fruit while in New York, and, ahem, citrus is in season. But it was awful!


One thing I REALLY wanted to do while in the City was visit the burrough of Queens, and more specifically, take “International Express” aka the elevated #7 train. We took the train near the end of the line to Flushing, which is known as the “new” Chinatown of NYC. Not far from the train, we wandered into a Chinese supermarket. At times I was chuckling, at other times I was cringing


So the picture of the LIVE turtles really disturbed me. Sure I know that meat comes from beings that were once alive. And I eat meat. And I’ve seen animals be killed to eat. And yes, I know people all over the world eat squirrels, cats, dogs, tigers, whales , bugs, baby cows and everything else under the sun. But seeing these turtles struck a very sad cord within me. In fact, I didn’t take a picture of the cooler next to it which had turtles individually bagged in mesh sacks atop a block of ice. At first I thought the turtles were dead, but then I lightly nudged one and it moved. It was on it’s back, nearly frozen solid. And turtles are cold-blooded. Having had turtles as pets growing up and having screeched the car to a halt to help a turtle cross the road more times that I have fingers on my hand, I just couldn’t really take this sight, or the thought of eating anything at the market’s restaurant (my plan). Good thing there was vegetarian food to be had not far away…


Thanks to Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation’s TV show, I found about this very interesting Hindu Temple about a mile from the Chinese market. The Temple operates a cafeteria in the basement and is open daily. This seemed to good to be true…

I always love when restaurants have set lunches. And the temple cafeteria did. I didn’t know anything the lunch came with; the only part of the description I understood was “mini”, which it was not.I also wanted to order a dosa. But, like the other menu, it was mind-boggling. Where was the glossary like Lupas?? I had no idea where to start, so I asked the man taking my order what his favorite dosa was? “……” “Yes I will take that!” Before it came to the table I was like “Crap, Joy! It’s gonna be crazy hot since it’s his favorite and most Indians have a higher “heat” tolerance when it comes to spice and food. Now, I am no weeny when it comes to spicey food, but have you ever noticed there are two scales in America? There is “American hot” and there is “Indian” or “Thai hot”? Well, as luck would have it, the dosa and accompanying dipping sauces were perfectly spiced and it was no problem. Just in case, I did order a mango lassi which was fantastic. All in all it was not the best Indian food I had ever had, but the atmosphere (hello churcheque Hindu supper), other diners and “can you guess what food I am?” made it totally worth it.


One of the most anticipated restaurants for me was Prune. The chef-owner of Prune, Gabrielle Hamilton, came out with her memoirs last year: Blood, Bones and Butter. Let me put it bluntly–she is a very interesting person…Nonetheless, I was excited to eat at her place. I ordered a fantastic salad with greens and sauteed radicchio (a current favorite of mine) and goat cheese. What I was really pumped about, however, was the beloved marrow bones she wrote about and what I dreamed about eating. Now, I will be totally honest–I had only tried marrow one time before this–and it was just a small bite–but it was heavenly rich. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about Prune’s marrow. It tasted like a lot of butter and not much else. Disappointment. But I did end the meal with a nice Negroni, which Gabrielle and her adopted Italian family were always sipping on in the book. I was quite surprised that I liked it–I’m usually not one for cocktails. Watch out Austin mixoligists–give me your best Negroni!
For Sunday brunch, we went to Balthazar’s. The interior is absolutely gorgeous–that is the thing about New York–you can gawk at the beautiful, historic nature of just about any building.

I ordered the Salad Nicoise and the largest cappuccino I had ever seen (and I payed for it later on with a stuffy nose, thanks to all the milk, but it was worth it). Our server was a bit of an asshole–he was French–I wondered if he was playing a part? Or just falling into a stereotype? As funny as this seems, I was disappointed that the salad was not presented like traditional nicoise salads in which all the ingredients are carefully placed separately like an appetizer plate.  This might have been the first time presentation bothered me–as it usually does not.



I would have liked to spend more time in Brooklyn, as there is SO MUCH happening food-wise there, but I’ll be back. These are some of the most memorial sights and eats from my time there–

My cousin and his girlfriend are members of the Park Slope Food Co-op which is a ” true co-op”–all members are mandated to work there 4 hours per month. In fact, you can’t even shop there if you were not a member. It was even more strict that Costco–we had to make a special trip upstairs to the membership office so I could get a badge to be in the store. Crazy! Anyway, it looks like Park Slopers love their Co-op and they have something special going on. When I went it was packed, or at least I thought it was. However, I was informed that it wasn’t that packed. Geeze, I thought to myself–I can hardly get around anyone and I don’t even have a cart–I’m kind of afraid to see it really packed. Ahhhh….New York….


The weather in New York was particularly mild for February. Except for the day I went on a walking tour with my cousin in Brooklyn. With the windchill near the Brooklyn waterfront, it could not have been more than 20 degrees. BRRRR!!! We ducked into Jacques Torres Chocolate  store where I warmed up with an Earl Grey tea and delightful chocolate chip cookie.


After eating such rich, delicious food, I was ready for something a tad more simple, and how do you say it? Homemade! My cousin whipped up a quick meal of pasta with fresh parsley and Parmesan. We started off the evening with some wonderful, hip cheese from Vermont I had bought at Murrays, wonderful olives and pickles from the Brooklyn Food Coop and a nice glass of wine. Isn’t vacation nice?


Also while in Brooklyn, I made it over to the Ger-nis Culinary and Herb Center, which had been on my list of things to do. It’s housed in an old converted warehouse in Brooklyn on the same street as my cousin’s place–what luck! The culinary center was beautifully layed-out and got me even more excited for the new home of Sustainable Food Center. Talking with Nissa, the owner of the Center, it also hit me how hard it is to run a business. I’m hopeful, though that our non-profit mission will help us launch and successfully offer increased programming for all in Austin and beyond.


I saved the best (or almost best) for last–by the last day in New York I still had not sunk my teeth into a bagel NOR a Ruben sandwich. Luckily, my cousin recommend I check out La Bagel Delight, just down the street. To my delight, they not only had bagles but I could get a Ruben on a bagel and was told it was cheaper. It must be a sign!

Dinner in 10 minutes? You Betcha!

One of the things I learned from a speaker at the Cookbook Conference I attended last week (and yes, I promise to write more about it soon!) is that you don’t have to always post something super glamorous on your blog. Duh, right? Well, sometimes I get so caught up in writing the “perfect post” that I end up not posting at all. So I am giving it a shot. I thought my dinner tonight was perfect being that it took less than 10 minutes to make. No joke. And part of it was from a can YET I managed to get some freshness in!


  • Rice (Had made a bunch of rice, then froze it, then defrosted it, so it was already cooked=easy peasy. And yes, rice freezes! Always make extra to have around!)
  • Canned refried beans
  • Tortillas
  • Green Sauce

To make green sauce, put the following in a food processor and blend for about 20-30 seconds:

  • Handful of cilantro (thank you garden!)
  • 1 tomatillo, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 C sour cream
  • 1/4 – 1/2 of a jalapeno (depending on how hot you like it), roughly chopped

There that wasn’t so bad, was it?



Anticipating New York City

Yesterday (Monday) was when the giddiness started—only one more day until my debut trip to NYC! I say my debut trip as I have only been to NYC once and I was staying in Jersey with an ex-boyfriend and we spent a day in the city—so I don’t really feel like I’ve “done” NYC. This time I’ll be staying at the iconic in mid-town Manhattan and in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

The real reason for my trip to NYC is the Cookbook Conference. I heard about the conference in the fall and the subject really peaked my interest. Back in October when I was making my plane reservations, I decided to pad my trip a few days on either side of the conference just in case a blizzard or the Stay Puff Marshmellow Man came through (it would be February after all). The best part of that padding? The weather is predicted to be quite mild and I’ve got a week in NYC!

As I sit on the plane my giddiness continues—Where to go? Where to eat? What to eat? What not to miss? What hidden gems can I find?

So far, topping the list are the following:

Queens. Yes, I know. An outer borough that’s not hip Brooklyn? Really? I’ve never been to Queens but I have this fascination with it that stems from its dizzying array of ethnic neighborhoods; neighborhoods that I hope to hear English only when I’m talking. I’ve read about the elevated #7 Train that runs straight through the heart of Queens, or the world, I should say. I’m hoping to get a taste of Romanian, Turkish, Irish, Indian, Korean, Chinese, Ecuadorian, Indian and Italian life—and food—on this urban adventure.

A park, that’s not Central Park. I know I’ll be hitting up Central Park at some point during my time in NYC, but I have this rather strange desire to find a more hidden nature in the City. So far the parks that have peaked my interest are the High Line (a once train track, now elevated park in Chelsea); Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, which is home to hundreds of migratory birds in the spring and autumn in Queens; and Inwood Hill Park in Harlem, which has miles of trails overlooking the Hudson River.

Ger-nis Culinary Center in Brooklyn. I don’t recall how I found Ger-nis on the internet, but I am glad I did. Among other things, it houses a teaching kitchen that offers cooking classes. Being that The Happy Kitchen will soon have its own teaching kitchen, I’m excited to take notes!

I Hate Perfume. I heard an interview with the owner of I Hate Perfume, which is located in Brooklyn. Supposedly the owner really did hate perfume and therefore started making his own, which are some of the most interesting smells I’ve heard about (Old Library Books, anyone)?

The NYC Greenmarkets. Even though it’s winter up here, there are a ton of farmers’ markets held year-round. The most famous is probably Union Square. I’m not sure if I’ll go here or end up at a different one—or both—we’ll see..

Ok, and here is the run-down of the restaurants/specialty food stores I hope to patronize:

The restaurant, Prune (I read owner/chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter)

The Spotted Pig Gastropub (Everyone’s talking about this place)

Russ and Daughters: Saw this place on No Reservations. They have been in biz since 1914. Their specialty are smoked fish and bagels.

Murrays Cheese Shop: Mission—find some really good stinky cheese.

A bar that I don’t yet know of that has non-NYC priced beers and spirits.

Fill in the blank New York Style pizza

Fill in the blank New York Style bagels

Will I get to do everything on my list? Probably not…but the best part is I’ll have fun wherever I end up!

Patience Through Backyard Chickens

If you’ve talked with me anytime in the past, oh, say, four months, you might have heard me describe my chicken situation. The situation being that my five backyard hens were not laying. In fact, they have not been laying consistently since early summer (consistently meaning 3-4 eggs per day). Unless you are living in a hole, you know how horrible this past summer was with record-setting heat and drought conditions. This definitely took a toll on the ladies–they’re laying capacity dropped dramatically to a trickle. I would get maybe two a week, if I was lucky. Then starting in September (when the high was only 100 degrees), the 2 wyandottes started molting. Chickens generally start molting in the fall. And molting = no eggs–it’s just too much stress on the body for them to produce eggs. Slowly the other three climbed on the molting bandwagon, making it so none of the chickens were laying. As the months wore on…and they had stopped molting….but had not begun laying “normally”, I started looking more seriously at my large stockpot…..What the heck? Why are they not back to laying?? What could be wrong especially given their plush life? I give them organic food! And supplement it with extra proteins (I read they needed extra during molting)! And greens! And cuddle time! And it’s not 115 degrees outside!

The one egg that came in December...why no more??

Two weeks ago while shopping at the SFC Farmers’ Mkt, I talked with one of my favorite farmers about my chicken conundrum.  Becky Ottmers suggested I add a timer and light to their coop. I had already known that less light in the winter coincides with decreased egg production. However, last winter, I saw no decrease in their production, so I didn’t think it would matter this year. But being as desperate as I was for my hens to lay again, I heeded their device and set up a light and timer. The light comes on at 4 am and goes off at 7.30 am.

And so I waited a week with the light and timer. No eggs.

And then yesterday there were two eggs! And today there were three eggs!!! Maybe, just maybe, the extra light is helping! (I already ate the three they laid today–I made two sunny side up with homemade bread and used another one to make mayonnaise).

As frustrating as it can be not having all the answers when it comes to raising urban chickens, I love how it challenges me to figure out the ins and out of nature and learn to have some patience (which I will be the first to admit I need more of). And given that the State of the Union Address was tonight, I thought this was a fitting cartoon!

“Relax and Have Fun”

As many of you know, I am the Program Director of The Happy Kitchen, Sustainable Food Center’s cooking and education program. In a nutshell, we train peer “Facilitators” to lead cooking and nutrition classes in communities that suffer from health disparities. Sustainable Food Center is in the midst of a Capital Campaign–we are raising $4.5 million to build an actual center for Sustainable Food Center, including a full-on teaching kitchen! (We are technically still in the “private phase” of the campaign; we hope to go “public” in May.)

As we meet with our architects and builders more frequently, reality has set in that The Happy Kitchen will finally have a kitchen. Throughout the Program’s history, the classes we have taught have been located in the community we were serving–at schools, rec centers, places of worship, libraries, etc. This model is ideal as we can teach families in their own community. However, having our own kitchen soon will boost the Program tenfold in our ability and scope. For example, about 1.5 years ago, we started offering cooking classes to the general public for a fee as we realized that far too many people do not possess the confidence, skills or knowledge to “cook from scratch”. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person spends about 30 minutes per day in food preparation and clean up. Now just to give you something to compare it to, the same average person spends over 2.5 hours per day watching television. And did I mention that over 60% of American adults are overweight or obese?

Thus, we started offering classes open to everyone, regardless of their community affiliation or income level. The idea is that we want to teach everyone how to cook and how to eat healthyfully in an equitable manner; the revenue earned from the fee-based classes are directly pumped back into the Program to off-set education for families that do not have the means to pay. This earned income revenue stream also allows the program to not be so dependent on grant funding.
With our new “teaching kitchen” we will be greatly expanding the number and type of classes that we offer, both for free and for a fee. Lately, I have been brainstorming about how the Program will change and what our offerings to the community will be once we have the new building. We know we want to offer something much more hands on–we are limited in this scope as classes are not taught in kitchens.

In thinking about the Program’s needs I got to thinking about my own needs—what skills or knowledge would I need to help guide The Happy Kitchen in its new space? Just as I was having these thoughts I also happened to be reading Kathleen Flinn’s second book, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How A Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices Into Fearless Homecooks. After earning her culinary degree at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, Kathleen ponders over what to do with her degree—not open a restaurant—which is what most people assume you do with a degree from Le Cordon Bleu Paris. While shopping in the grocery store in her hometown of Seattle, it dawned on her—teach people how to cook! (“Wait you mean I can make Fettuccine sauce without a jar and it’s cheaper?”). What unfolds is a warming account of teaching women (yes, the study group ended up being 100% female) confidence and self-sufficiency in the kitchen.

As I read the book, I kept thinking to myself, Yes! Yes! Yes! This is exactly the direction in which I want The Happy Kitchen to go—I want us to be the most recognized “homecooking school” around. I want us to be the leader in teaching citizens of Austin how to feed oneself and one’s family in a healthful, economical and sustainable way. Furthermore, I want The Happy Kitchen to be a model for other cities who will send us their leaders to become trained so as to seed other Programs around the nation (The Happy Kitchen has replicated it’s programming in Florida, North Carolina and various places in Texas). So, not only did the Book stimulate ideas in my head for The Happy Kitchen—but it also set off ideas for me, namely that I would start the culinary program at Austin Community College!

I do not have a professional culinary background– what I know is from cooking in my youth with my mother, working in restaurants, cooking on my own as an adult and now directing a cooking education program. Reading the Book and the way the classes were taught, made me realize that I want a foundation in technique and the why of cooking in order to be a better educator and Program Director.

And this week marks my first classes—Intro to Foods (food science and “kitchen lab”) and Food Production and Planning (basically culinary math). Given my objectives, I will be wearing a very different lens than most culinary students as my goals are to incorporate my learning into the The Happy Kitchen and thus the public; I have no desire in pursuing a career in the “typical” food industry–restaurants, catering, hospitality, etc. Most of all with my studies, I wish to bring back the knowledge and comfort of a lost skill.

Now you may be wondering why turn to culinary school  if you are trying to bring back a “lost skill” that lay folk possessed. Well, to be perfectly honest, going to school helps to expedite some learning. Attending classes weekly (with kitchen labs!) forces me to acquire knowledge and skills that may take years. And I should also add that in no way do I believe that culinary education is superior to what my mother or grandmother know. But, I think there are certainly techniques and food chemistry behind the things that we do that we might not know why we do it—we just do it out of habit. It’s kind of like speaking a language. One grows up speaking their mother tongue without really knowing why certain sentence structures are the way they are. However, when one studies a foreign language, one must learn the grammar along with the language to better acquire it as one does not have the opportunity (most of the time) to just live it and speak it.

Also, I have been at SFC for just about 4.5 years. Throughout my time at this wonderful organization, I have thought about going back to school for my masters—in everything from Geography, to Public Health to Public Affairs. I am kind of a dork– taking a class with 15 other people with an instructor, taking notes, practicing skills, sharing ideas, reading and then testing my knowledge–all of this I kinda like. That being said, I could probably write pages about institutionalized education and how messed up our our learning system is—everything from backwards school policies to the monitization of higher learning. But I will save that for another time. Anyway, on a personal note, I am very much excited to learn new techniques, be exposed to the food industry “from the belly of the beast” and hopefully create some lasting partnerships between Sustainable Food Center and ACC. Wish me luck!

P.S. The title of the blog is what my instructor said on the first day of Intro to Foods Class–Rock on!

My chef's coat, knife roll and yes, I even have to wear a silly hat 🙂